After an intense month of exciting and competitive matches, the FIFA World Cup is finally drawing to an end. Teams from all around the world have battled it out on the pitch, all of them sharing the dream of lifting the most iconic trophy in all of football, with some emerging as surprise contenders and others falling short of expectations.
And it has all led to one final game - an epic match up between 2014 finalists Argentina and returning champions France! Played Sunday at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, this mouthwatering clash has been years in the making and is geared up to be an absolute stunner.
For many years football fans have been arguing whether Lionel Messi is truly the best player to ever grace the field, or if he is simply one of the best. While he’s won just about everything you could think of at club level, his greatest criticism was his lack of titles at an international level.
This was clearly something that weighed on Messi himself, not because he cared about what others thought about his career, but because his dream had always been to bring titles back to his native Argentina and bring joy to his people.
While the pressure and expectations bestowed upon him were clearly overbearing and unrealistic, they clearly weighed upon him as he lost one World Cup and 2 Copa America finals. After missing a penalty in that second Copa America final, Messi even briefly quit the national team - unable to deal with the immense disappointment.
However, seven-time Ballon d'Or winner would ultimately return to the Albiceleste side to try and fulfill his ultimate dream yet again, and it was last year in Brazil that he finally managed to achieve it.
Facing off against Brazil in the Maracana Stadium - their historical rivals at their home field - Argentina fought with heart and gave it everything they had to ultimately lift up the cup after a 1-0 win. Messi’s happiness and relief was evident, like he had just taken a huge weight off his shoulders.
Messi had delivered what he had always wanted, and no one could ever take that away from him.
And so we arrive at this World Cup, Messi’s last dance. Not only has the diminutive genius been at his absolute best - despite his 35 years of age - but he’s actually looked to be enjoying himself rather than suffering the whole tournament.
Captaining an up and coming team full of promise and young talent, Messi has managed to do what everyone always asked of him, unreasonably: To take an unimpressive Argentina side and take them to the final - the same way Maradona did in Mexico 1986.
Whether he manages to win it like Maradona did, or whether they fall to a French team that is seen as the superior of both sides, his legend is cemented. But the team rally around their captain and give him the parting gift of a lifetime? Can they bring the ultimate joy to the people of Argentina?
Les Bleus arrive at the Lusail Stadium as the first champions in 24 years to participate in a consecutive final and it's not hard to see why.
Even with more than half a dozen first team players out injured - including several World Cup winners in 2018, Les Bleus have shown they are the strongest and most complete squad in the entire tournament.
During the entire tournament they have rarely ever been troubled by any of their rivals, and aside from their 1-0 loss against Tunisia - a game where France rested all their first team players - they have not been behind in the scoreline for more than a few minutes.
While France’s strength lies in the strength of their entire squad, it is almost impossible not to spotlight their most brilliant player - Kylian Mbappe. Not only is he tied with Messi in the race for the Golden Boot with 5 goals, but he has been at his brilliant best during the entire cup.
Even if he did not score in the Quarter-final or Semifinal round, he was absolutely pivotal to all of France’s attacking efforts - both assisting and creating key goal opportunities during both matches and showcasing some of his fantastic dribbling and skills in the process.
Given how the narrative behind Argentina’s run is focused very closely on Messi, it's hard not to make the duel with his PSG teammate one of the main talking points of this game. After all, now that Ronaldo and Messi are in the twilight years of their career, a new generation of giants is emerging and Mbappe has proved to be at the forefront of the conversation time and time again.
The real question here is whether it is time for Mbappe, the new superstar, to take over the world, or whether the Messi and old guard have one last taste of glory before fading into sunset.
A veritable World Cup classic, Argentina and France have met in the World Cup on three different occasions.
Their first two meetings came in the group stages - both of them ending up with an Argentina win - first in 1930 and later in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, where the hosts would go on to win the match 2-1, knocking them out of the cup.
Their most recent match was only 4 years ago, during the Round of 16 of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. One of the best matches of the entire tournament, France would go on to win the match 4-3.
In terms of overall record, both sides have faced off against each other 12 times, with six Albiceleste wins, three draws, and three French victories.
With both teams known to be sides that favour attacking football, this match has all the makings of a classic World Cup final - specially if the game is as open as when these sides faced off in Russia 2018.
If you believe that may be the case, the Over 2.5 goals can be found at a price of 2.30 at Betsson, which looks to be great value.